Foster carers to form union

A group of foster care workers have voted to form the first ever trade union for the profession.

With carers concerned about their lack of employment rights, not being listened to when a child is removed from their care and rates of pay, 60 current and former carers met in Parliament to vote on whether to unionise.

Foster carers can be employed by private agencies but the majority are given work by local authorities. There are currently around 55,000 fostering households in the UK which care for some 64,000 children.

Foster carers are paid an ‘allowance’ to cover the cost of the child in their care and a ‘fee’ based on their skill level and time. However, they are not classed as employees or workers, because they are not engaged under a contract of employment.

This means that they are not entitled to any of the rights enjoyed by employees or workers such as sick pay, holiday pay, or the national minimum wage.

Jason Moyer-Lee, the general secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, who organised the meeting, said: “People who work in foster care, alongside social workers, local authority employees, and others, together form part of a professional network responsible for looking after some of society's most vulnerable individuals.

"Foster care work is important, demanding, and all too often highly exploitative. Like social workers and others who work in care, foster care workers should be remunerated properly, treated fairly, and have recourse to due process. By voting to unionise this is precisely what they aim to achieve."

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who attended the meeting to support unionising, said: "Foster caring is an essential role in our society, and these foster carers carry a burden for the rest of our community so they should be properly recognised.

"They have never really been recognised and had legal rights. They should have security of their employment and be properly paid as well, and they should have the support that they need."